Thursday, October 16, 2014

Hugh Latimer and the Regulative Principle of the State

Hugh Latimer (1485-1555), English Reformer, Iconoclast, Chaplain to Edward VI, Martyr

Latimer and Old Testament Civil Law 

When arguing for civil sanctions against lechery, Hugh Latimer, appealing to the law of Moses, states:
I would wish that Moses's law were restored for punishment of lechery, and that the offenders therein might be punished according to the prescription of Moses's law.[1] 
Latimer also appeals to the Old Testament for qualifications of civil rulers:
Holy scripture qualifieth the officers , and sheweth what manner of men they should be, and of what qualities, viros fortes, "strong men;" some translations have, viros sapientes, "wise men;" the English translation hath it very well, "men of activity;" that have stomachs to do their office, they must not be milksops, nor white-livered knights; they must be wise, hearty, hardy, men of a good stomach. Secondarily, he qualifieth them with the fear of God. He saith they must be timentis Deum, "fearing God." For if he fear God, he shall be no briber, no perverter of judgment, faithful. Thirdly, they must be chosen officers, in quibus est veritas, " in whom is truth," if he say it, it shall be done. Fourthly, qui oderunt avaritiam, hating covetousness. Far from it; he will not come near it that hateth it. It is not he that will give five hundred pound for an office. With these qualities, God's wisdom would have magistrates to be qualified.[2]

Promoting the English Iconoclasm Movement

Just as the Old Testament supports destruction of idols, so did Latimer. Latimer was an important figure in the English iconoclasm movement:
[I]conoclasm rose to prominence in 1533 when Hugh Latimer ... was invited to public debates in Bristol. Latimer gained notoriety and favor with Thomas Cromwell in 1533 to become the prime propagandist for the reformist policies after he began preaching against images, the veneration of saints, and the doctrine of purgatory.[3] 
On Latimer's iconoclasm, one author writes:
In 1537 Latimer ordered the stripping of Our Lady of Worcester in the priory of St. Mary's, Worcster, in obedience to Cromwell's injunctions. In early 1538 he returned to London to participate in a public condemnation of relics and images, during which the famous Rood of Boxley, the "Rood of Grace in Kent," was smashed and burned at Paul's Cross, while Hilsey preached the sermon. Latimer presided at the degradation of the Rood of Rumsbury, reportedly picking it up and hurling it out the west door of St. Paul's. The intensity of these events is reflected in Latimer's report to Cromwell on [O]ur Lady of Worcester: "She hath been the devil's instrument to bring many (I fear) to eternal fire: now she herself, with her old sister of Wilshingham, her young sister of Ipswich, with their other two sisters of Dorcestor and Pearce, would make a jolly visitor in Smithfield; they would not be all day burning!"[4]  

The Temporal Sword Must Punish According to God's Word

For Latimer, rulers must rule by God's word:
There is no king, emperor, magistrate, and ruler, of what state soever they be, but are bound to obey this God, and to give credence unto his holy word, in directing their steps ordinately according unto the same word: Yea, truly, they are not only bound to obey God's book, but also the minister of the same, "for the word's sake," so far as he speaketh "sitting in Moses' chair;" that is, if his doctrine be taken out of Moses' law. For in this world God hath two swords, the one is a temporal sword, the other spiritual. The temporal sword resteth in the hands of kings, magistrates, and rulers, under him, whereunto all subjects, as well the clergy as the laity, be subject, and punishable for any offence contrary to the same book.[5]
Note how when it comes to the authority of the temporal sword, Latimer does not mention anything beyond God's book (it is by this that rulers must direct their steps ordinately); he only refers to authority to punish "for any offence contrary to the same book," and to rule by the law of Moses.


[1] Hugh Latimer, The Sermons of the Right Reverend Father in God, and Constant Martyr of Jesus Christ, Hugh Latimer, Sometime Bishop of Worcester, Now First Arranged According to the Order of Time in which They Were Preached, Collated by the Early Impressions, and Occasionally Illustrated with Notes, Explanatory of Obsolete Phrases, Particular Customs, and Historical Allusions. Volume I., ed. John Watkins (London: James Duncan, 1824), 235.
[2] Ibid., 165, 166.
[3] Brenda Deen Schildgen, Heritage or Heresy: Preservation and Destruction of Religious Art and Architecture in Europe (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), 47.
[4] Michael Pasquarello III, God's Ploughman: Hugh Latimer, a "Preaching Life" (1485-1555) (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2014), 74. Citation from Chester, Hugh Latimer, 130, 131.
[5] Latimer, The Sermons of the Right Reverend Father in God79, 80.

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